Hearing Loss, Technology, and Depression

Recent research has supported what many doctors and patients have suspected for years: even slight hearing loss, if untreated, can lead to depression, anxiety, and social isolation. David Myers, a psychology professor at Hope College in Michigan, presented on the topic hearing loss and psychology at a recent convention. Myers found that people with untreated hearing loss were 50% more likely to suffer depression than those people who used hearing aids.

Empirical and anecdotal evidence suggests that people who are hard of hearing often resist hearing aid technology. Many sufferers procrastinate and wait many years before seeking help. If the hearing loss occurs in younger adults, there is a greater chance of ignoring the loss and suffering through the isolation. Early intervention is important and researchers all agree that getting people to use hearing aid technology is a key step in helping them gain control over their social, emotional, and cognitive lives. Failure to take advantage of assistive technologies can lead to greater risk of severe depression and even dementia.

The technology of hearing aids has evolved as more sophisticated tools become available. For example, Myers advocates a hearing loop, which uses an inductive loop to transmit sound signals directly into an in-ear hearing aid or cochlear implant, where it is received by an inductive device called a telecoil. The loop system allows hearing aids to serve as wireless speakers and efforts are underway to install such technology in public spaces such as airports and auditoriums as well as private home environments. The technology works very well is space with excessive background noise. Making public spaces hearing aid accessible is psychologically important for people with hearing loss. Myers argues that these advances in technology will both help those with hearing aids feel more comfortable and encourage untreated persons to seek out diagnosis and treatment.

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